Unistellar to receive CES 2018 Innovation Award for smart, powerful, crowd-funded consumer telescope

Marseille and San Francisco, Jan. 8 — After a busy and productive 2017, Unistellar is back at CES in Las Vegas to receive the 2018 Innovation Award for its eVscope, a compact, connected, and incredibly powerful consumer telescope that raised an astonishing $2.2 million in a November 2017 Kickstarter campaign.

Unistellar, a startup that’s committed to restoring the joy of night-sky viewing to people all over the globe, is off to a strong start thanks to the massive success of this campaign, which gave supporters an opportunity to order an eVscope. Supporters eagerly took advantage of the chance to reserve their own revolutionary, electronics-based telescope that offers unprecedented views of distant objects in the night sky. The eVscope also allows users to make significant contributions to science by joining observation campaigns led by prominent astronomers.

“After three years of prototype development, building, and testing, we’re proud to bring our compact, intelligent, powerful telescope to market,” said Arnaud Malvache, President and CTO of Unistellar. “We were also pleased to demonstrate our prototype at several star parties in Europe and the United States, and these efforts paid off beyond our wildest expectations.”

When the Kickstarter campaign ended on November 23, Unistellar had not only raised $2.2 million, the most money ever raised by a space exploration project on Kickstarter, but also taken pledges for 1,646 eVscopes and gathered support from 2,144 people all over the world.

“We’re delighted by the eVscope’s ability to attract newbies and skilled amateur astronomers,” said Franck Marchis, Chief Scientific Officer at Unistellar and Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute. “Their interest is crucial to the success of the key citizen-science component of our project, which aims to create a network of several thousand telescopes able to monitor the sky 24/7 from almost anywhere on the globe.”

This citizen-science network will be managed by the SETI Institute, and give telescope owners the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge science by receiving alerts when special events like super-novae, asteroid flybys, or comet outbursts are occurring and can be observed on their devices.

In addition to the prestigious Innovation Award, CES also gives Unistellar the opportunity to show attendees the design of the revolutionary eVscope™, which can be carried around and stored easily. “We created this compact, autonomous, easy-to-use telescope for all of us, including urban astronomers who have long been denied easy access to the wonders of the night sky,” said Laurent Marfisi, Unistellar CEO. “The eVscope will revive the sense of awe and wonder that the sky has engendered in humans since our species first appeared on Earth.”

The intense interest the eVscope generated among novice and professional astronomers was a driving force behind CES’ decision to confer the 2018 Innovation Award on the device. “Tech for a Better World,” the category in which Unistellar won, highlights products that share a common goal or the ability to affect the world in a positive way and create a positive societal and/or global impact.

Finally for those who missed the Kickstarter campaign, Unistellar announced the opening of pre-sales of its eVscope in spring 2018 with a shipping in spring 2019.

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About Unistellar:

Unistellar is reinventing popular astronomy through the development of the Enhanced Vision Telescope™: a smart combination of optics, electronics, and proprietary image-processing technology that aims to make astronomy interactive. Unistellar is completely dedicated to its popular ambition, but its technology has already garnered attention for other applications from established institutions for like the ONERA (the French aerospace agency) and companies focused on Imaging. http://unistellaroptics.com/

Possible Lava Tube Skylights Discovered Near the North Pole of the Moon

11 January 2018, Mountain View, CA –The SETI Institute and the Mars Institute announced today the discovery of small pits in a large crater near the North Pole of the Moon, which may be entrances to an underground network of lava tubes. The pits were identified through analysis of imaging data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). If water ice is present, these potential lava tube entrances or “skylights” might allow future explorers easier access to subsurface ice, and therefore water, than if they had to excavate the gritty ice-rich “regolith” (surface rubble) at the actual lunar poles.

The new pits were identified on the northeastern floor of Philolaus Crater, a large, 43 mile (70 km)-diameter impact crater located at 72.1oN, 32.4oW, about 340 miles (550 km) from the North Pole of the Moon, on the lunar near side. The pits appear as small rimless depressions, typically 50 to 100 feet across (15 to 30 meters), with completely shadowed interiors. The pits are located along sections of winding channels, known on the Moon as “sinuous rilles,” that crisscross the floor of Philolaus Crater. Lunar sinuous rilles are generally thought to be collapsed, or partially collapsed, lava tubes, underground tunnels that were once streams of flowing lava.

“The highest resolution images available for Philolaus Crater do not allow the pits to be identified as lava tube skylights with 100 percent certainty, but we are looking at good candidates considering simultaneously their size, shape, lighting conditions and geologic setting” says Pascal Lee, planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute who made the new finding at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

The discovery of the candidate lava tube skylights in Philolaus Crater is being presented by Lee this week at NASA’s Lunar Science for Landed Missions Workshop convened by the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) at Ames. The meeting aims to examine the range of scientific investigations that could be conducted at a variety of future landing sites on the Moon”.

Prior to this discovery, over 200 pits had been found on the Moon by other researchers, with many identified as likely skylights leading to underground lava tubes associated with similar sinuous rilles. However, today’s announcement represents the first published report of possible lava tube skylights in the Moon’s polar regions.

In recent years, the lunar poles have grown in strategic importance for both science and exploration, as water ice is known to be buried in the lunar regolith in permanently shadowed areas at both poles. But with no known large cavity allowing easy access to the lunar polar underground, and often no nearby access to solar power, extracting water ice scattered in lunar polar regolith presents a substantial challenge.

The new discovery opens an exciting prospect: potentially much easier access to - and extraction of - lunar polar ice. Three factors could help: 1) skylights and lava tubes could provide more direct access to the very cold polar underground, alleviating the need to excavate vast amounts of lunar regolith; 2) if ice is present inside the lava tubes – which is not yet known - it could be in the form of massive ice formations as often occur in cold lava tubes on Earth – instead of mixed-in within lunar grit, and 3) solar power would be available nearby, just outside each skylight.

Philolaus Crater is additionally appealing due to its relatively young age, which would allow studies of the Moon’s more recent evolution. It is one of few large craters formed during the Copernican Era, that is, within the last 1.1 billion years or so of lunar history. Also, being on the near side, Philolaus affords direct communications with the Earth.

“We would also have a beautiful view of Earth. The Apollo landing sites were all near the Moon’s equator, such that the Earth was almost directly overhead for the astronauts. But from the Philolaus skylights, Earth would loom just over the crater’s mountainous rim, near the horizon to the southeast” adds Lee.

 “Our next step should be further exploration, to verify whether these pits are truly lava tube skylights, and if they are, whether the lava tubes actually contain ice. This is an exciting possibility that a new generation of caving astronauts or robotic spelunkers could help address” says Lee. “Exploring lava tubes on the Moon will also prepare us for the exploration of lava tubes on Mars. There, we will face the prospect of expanding our search for life into the deeper underground of Mars where we might find environments that are warmer, wetter, and more sheltered than at the surface.”

“This discovery is exciting and timely as we prepare to return to the Moon with humans” says Bill Diamond, president and CEO of the SETI Institute. “It also reminds us that our exploration of planetary worlds is not limited to their surface, and must extend into their mysterious interiors”.

About Mars Institute

The Mars Institute is a non-profit research organization dedicated to the advancement of Mars science, exploration, and the public understanding of Mars. Research at the Mars Institute focuses on Mars and other planetary destinations that may serve as stepping stones to Mars, in particular Mars’ moons, our Moon, and near-Earth objects. The Mars Institute investigates the technologies and strategies that will enable and optimize the future human exploration of Mars. The Mars Institute operates the Haughton-Mars Project Research Station on Devon Island, High Arctic, currently the largest privately operated polar research station in the world and the leading field research facility dedicated to planetary science and exploration.

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